Shocked is all I have to say about this one.
I was shocked that they felt the need to make this movie. I was shocked that they got the original cast to come back. I was shocked by how bad the trailer made this movie look. And finally, I was shocked by how good this ended up being.
A Christmas Story Christmas takes place some thirty years after the events of the original film. Ralphie (reprised by Peter Billingsley) is all grown up with a family of his own while trying to make it as a writer in Chicago. After receiving news about the death of his father (Darren McGavin in the original) he returns home to Indiana to be with his mother (Airplane!‘s Julie Hagerty) and give his family the perfect Christmas.
In an era of reboots and spinoffs there is nothing about this film that should work on paper. Sure it’s great they were able to cast most of the kids from the first film nearly 40 years later in the same roles and there is a LOT of parallel’s and Easter eggs from the original, but something about it all works pretty damn well. One thing that this film does particularly well is continue the use of Ralphie’s fantasies as little vignettes inside the film. Many of these bits result in some good clean fun while still focusing on more adult humor. The movie is still rated PG so it’s nothing over the top but its clever enough that I actually was belly laughing at one of the bits later in the film.
In addition to a number of obvious callbacks to the original there are several new additions that boost the film’s Christmas spirit. Ralphie’s wife, Sandy (Erinn Hayes), and his mother have a very funny mother-daughter-in-law relationship, amplified by Hagerty’s subtle digs and passive aggressive tone. Obviously Hagerty is here replacing Melinda Dillon, who recently retired from acting, and she is perfectly cast as a motherly figure that can drive us all crazy but still maintain our affection. Ralphie’s kids played by Julianna Layne and River Drosche are also welcome additions to the cast, adding a level of endearing wise-assery that Billingsley provided in the original.
It’s not perfect by any means. Flick, (Scott Schwartz) Schwartz (R.D. Robb), and Randy (Ian Petrella) don’t add too much to the film and while Billingsley does his best it doesn’t always pay off in the end. It’s also fairly predictable but it’s a family Christmas movie, nobody’s watching for the plot. But one thing is obvious is that everyone in the cast is having fun and that energy can be infectious.
A Christmas Story is one of those film’s with an interesting legacy. It took a while to reach its cult classic status and now the film can be seen on a 24-hour loop come Christmas day. Personally I loved it when I was a kid but as time as gone on the film’s humor has been beaten into the ground that I’m more or less numb to it at this point. Still, it’s not Christmas without watching Ralphie’s dad tell him there’s one more present behind the tree. This film accomplishes a lot of the same tenderness of the original, albeit told through the parents eyes. I’m also man enough to admit that the film’s final act had my heart melt into a gooey puddle of dancing sugar plums. While I’m not gonna go slapping an ‘INSTANT CLASSIC’ label on this one it’s hard to deny that at the minimum it certainly exceeds expectations.
A Christmas Story Christmas is available now on HBO Max.
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